Final Fantasy XIII-2

6 Overall Score

New twist on an already innovative battle system

Wooden voice acting, poor writing, and a take it or leave it aesthetic

Written by on February 21, 2012 in [, , , , , ]

So, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a thing. We all get that this is weird, right? Not just the everyday weirdness of having thirteen of a game purported to be final because your studio was originally out of money and wow this sentence is just going to keep going, but having sequels to your game’s individual interations. This isn’t just me, right? This is odd. That’s pretty much how I’d describe XIII-2 in general. Weird.

XIII-2 is a time travel sideplot that takes place a few years after the events of the first game. I’m not going to get too far into the plot because it’s honestly one of the elements I’ve never liked in any Final Fantasy game that wasn’t eight or sixteen bit. If you’re expecting superpowered teenagers to fight a great all-consuming evil XIII-2 won’t disappoint. Where it will is in the characters.

Look at the box art for Final Fantasy XIII-2 for a second. Go ahead, go to and look at the listing. I’ll wait. Got it? Alright, so that chick on the cover with feathers coming out of her hind end? That’s Lightning. You will play as her for about twenty-five minutes of tutorial. Then never again. Now that’s not a terrible thing necessarily. I’m not sold on Lightning as a likable character I’d want to spend another JRPG’s worth of video game with. But our replacements for Lightning are her sister, Serah (because Sarah isn’t different enough), and Noel, who we don’t really know or care about at all. Both of these characters follow the Final Fantasy 7+ tradition of dressing like steampunk drag queens. They unfortunately also follow the tradition of every hacky anime ever written by telling the audience everything instead of letting the player see absolutely anything whatsoever for himself. Instead we have long, dull sections of exposition where the characters really aren’t doing that much. The aesthetics of JRPG character design are something you can take or leave; poor character design and writing in a game that’s largely focused on story is hard to excuse.

The funny thing is beyond the veneer of badly written characters dressing as if there were a crippling belt shortage in the last decade and speaking like a photocopier trying to understand pathos, the gameplay is pretty good. XIII-2 keeps the same paradigm shift system as its predecessor, and combats move quickly and have you doing things that aren’t just mashing auto-attack until it ends. The big difference here is the monster capture system. Your party begins with only two members, and you fill the third sport with a monster captured in combat. Each monster has its own single role, and a paradigm shift can swap critters in and out. Early on this is less of an issue, as you’ll do what everyone does and keep a cait sith in to heal your dudes forever. Later there’s a bit more tactical importance in this change, but not a ton; XIII-2 isn’t an absurdly difficult game. Every monster in the game has its own level up grid, though these are nowhere near as complicated as that of your major characters. This system is also how XIII-2 introduces some side characters, including Lightning.

This is another issue I take with Final Fantasy; it’s full of DLC. That’s not intrinsically bad, but one of the first pieces of content is the DLC that allows you to play the character that’s on the cover of the game you’ve just purchased. While I’m not a huge fan of FFXIII, either, this is something along the lines of playing a Mario game with Toad until you fork over $5. This is about the game as a whole, not the DLC, but this element seems disingenuous, regardless.

In the past I haven’t been a fan of Final Fantasy games. Nothing XIII-2 does is going to change that impression significantly. I’m not the person that’s going to enjoy characters like Noel and Serah. For that matter I’m not fond of Lightning. This is the first time in a while I’ve considered that a shame, though, as there’s a lot of interesting things going on with XIII-2. The huge number of potential party combinations mixed with the paradigm system has a lot of potential, and elements of the time-travel focused storyline bring back hope of older, far better games. But then characters open their mouth or engage in inexplicable midair swordfights, and I remember what I’m playing again. Those of you who really want more FFXIII will be reasonably happy here, and likely already have the game and the DLC. For the rest of you, maybe check this out, but don’t expect XIII-2 to defy your expectations for the series.

A copy of Final Fantasy XIII-2 was given to The Married Gamers for review.


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Author: Zach Snell View all posts by
Hi there. If you're reading this you've probably read some material of mine. If you want more go here and read my stories about a guy who punches wizards.

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